Allow me to digress a little from the novel, but you will understand that, in the end, I didn’t go so far away from the point. I was kindly offered and ARC of this novel by the publisher; as soon as I started it (and sorry if I was not able to finish it sooner), my curiosity was picked, since I’m an old fan of Casanova, but I didn’t know he had a brother… yes, the author was so good in “preparing” the field for the reader that I really thought I was reading real memoirs and not a fictional work. But then I arrived to the of letter of Benedetto to Gianni Garini, and I wanted to know more, going back to the introduction, to that “with a foreword of Professor Guido Grancuore…”. Originally it was something like Professor Guido Grancuore, Università di S. Matteo (o Marco?), Padua. I don’t think the publisher knew I’m actually from Padua, and I don’t think they knew they did a huge mistake naming the college “S. Matteo”, not since, as the publisher well knew, there is no college “S. Matteo” in Padua, but since the University of Padua, aside from being one of the oldest University in the world, it’s also completely secular, and in no way one of its department could be named after a Saint. When it was founded in 1221, Padua gathered the “almost” heretic scholar from the University of Bologna (founded in 1181) who didn’t want to abide to the Church rule of miracles and divine providence. Those scholars believe in the secular laws of medicine, astronomy and all the other “heretic” matters, and since they couldn’t study it in Bologna, they retired to Padua. That is the reason why, the University of Padua has not the name of a Saint, or a King, or some other very important person, but it is simply named “il Bo’”, i.e. “the Ox”, from the head of an ox that was hanging at the entrance of the inn that initially accommodate them, and that is now the old court of that very same university. When I told to the publisher this same thing, he told me he didn’t want to use the real name but he wanted a “likely” name, something that was right according to the history (and the story). I suggest him to name the fictional college after Elena Cornaro-Piscopia (or Elena Corner della Piscopia), born in 1646 and died in 1684, she was the first woman to officially graduate in an University and she did it in Padua; since she was from a very wealthy family, it’s possible that a college was named after her (basically since her family could have sponsored that), and as the same Marten Weber tells in the acknowledgments, “there should be a university named after her”. And since Elena was an out of the ordinary woman, it’s right she is “used” in the story of an out of the ordinary man, Benedetto Casanova.
Now all of you are wondered, what all of this does it matter with the story? Well it’s a proof more the author paid high attention to all the minimal details, and the feeling of this fictional story is of a very non fictional memoirs, so much that, even for who, like me, lives in the place where part of the story is set, has difficult sometime to distinct reality from fiction, and only for the very fat chance I’m living in that very city, I probably found out one of those little story digressions from history the author took.
The story follows Benedetto Casanova, the less notorious gay brother of Giacomo Casanova, in his love adventures. While he is maybe as libertine as his famous brother, in one thing Benedetto differs from Giacomo, he believes in love. I think that is the main point of the author, since in the end, we will see that Benedetto has reached his dreams, and he is happy, while Giacomo continues in his wicked ways towards destruction. Like Giacomo, Benedetto cannot distinct love from sex, and so there is a lot of sex in this novel, but as I like to remember, one of the judges of the Rainbow Awards who gave an high score to this novel, said that “This was an incredible piece of literature (…) (but) while the writing was excellent and the historical research was compelling, I had a serious problem with the fact that so much of this book was centered on sex. It was like reading a glorified hxxxxxb digest.” For me it is like he was saying, I shouldn’t like this since it’s basically pxxn, but I liked it anyway.
What instead is in common between Giacomo and Benedetto is the hard social criticism they did of their times and politics (and remember, at that time, Church was politics); behind the façade of libertine, Giacomo was in reality, and Benedetto is in fiction, an accurate observer of society, and someone who wasn’t scared to tell the truth.
I highly recommend this novel, but please, be aware of the sexual component of it; knowing what you will find, you will be probably less scandalized and ready to enjoy the fine and clever mind who wrote it.
Amazon: Benedetto Casanova - The Memoirs
Amazon Kindle: Benedetto Casanova - The Memoirs
Paperback: 414 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace (March 18, 2011)
Reading List: http://www.librarything.com/catalog_bott